New Iran Sanctions

The EU also approved a new list of sanctions against Iran.

Ashton said after the meeting the new sanctions would specifically target Iran's nuclear program -- which the West believes has military aims.

"This package is robust, it's comprehensive. All the key areas, including energy, are included," Ashton said.

She said the new sanctions "go beyond" the UN Security Council's requirements, "but they follow the same logic. They target people, companies, and sectors directly and indirectly involved in Iran's nuclear programs in making, transporting, financing, and supporting those programs."

Ashton said the new sanctions were a "powerful message" to Tehran and one that was designed to persuade the country's leadership that its interests are best served by a return to "meaningful negotiations" with the international community.

> Map of Iran
Ashton cautiously welcomed the latest Iranian offer to return to talks, saying, however, that the EU currently had no more than the "bare bones" of the Iranian statement.

Then today, Iran's Foreign Ministry said that country "deeply regrets and condemns" the new EU sanctions.

The EU foreign-policy chief sidestepped questions on a possible Turkish role in mediating talks with Iran. Ashton noted, however, that the EU was keen to get Ankara to sign up to its sanctions so as to avoid a situation where Turkish companies could step into the breach left by EU businesses.

The EU ministers also endorsed a decision reached last month to extend the EU monitoring mission in Georgia by another year. However, diplomats in Brussels say the bloc is becoming "weary" of Georgia and that an increasing number of member states is looking to limit the EU's commitment to the country in the future.

Brussels officials say Ashton, who recently visited Georgia, told EU ambassadors last week she was unimpressed by President Mikheil Saakashvili's lack of "realism" in relations with either the EU or Russia.
World media monitoring